Chapter 4

Don't have to stay with someone that makes you cry
You'll end up killing all the love you have inside.”

                        -“Pass You By,” Boyz II Men



            Hannah hummed along to the song playing on her Discman. It was so pretty. She turned the case over and glanced at what it was called. “Gone.” She nodded her approval of the song.

            Then she caught a glimpse of the case insert. She pulled it out and flipped through the pages distractedly, still humming softly. Suddenly she froze.

            Wait a second. Is that…

            She slipped her headphones off and peered more closely at the black and white picture. It is! It’s Josh. I can’t believe it. Quickly turning the music off, she turned all her concentration to the insert. She turned the pages frantically, searching for more information about him.

            Instead of “Josh Chasez,” it was “JC Chasez.” That makes sense. He changed his name when he joined the Mickey Mouse Club. But I didn’t know he kept it that way. She drank in the sight of his different pictures, trying to gauge how much he’d changed.

            Several minutes later she sat back, still letting the news sink in. That’s why he’s in New York. He’s in ‘N Sync, and we’re going to be performing together.

            Her face lit up, imagining how amazing it would be to talk to him again, and just be near him after so many years. Her racing pulse showed that maybe that childhood crush hadn’t completely faded away after all.

            But then she paused. What if Josh- or JC- is different now? Obviously, he’s changed more than just his hair. And I’ve changed too. He didn’t even like me when we were kids, anyway. What’s going to happen?

            The excitement slowly diminished and instead it was replaced by worry. What will happen?


*                       *                       *


            Justin shook his head. “Go fish.”

            Chris looked at him, confused. “Wait, I thought we were playing poker.”

            JC laid his cards down. “Poker? You mean euchre.”

            “Who plays euchre?” Chris scoffed. “Old-timer.”

            Joey started cracking up. “Wait, wait, hold up a sec. You, twenty-nine years old, just called JC an old-timer!” He collapsed on Lillian’s shoulder, chuckling.

            Chris threw a card in his direction. “Shuddup. I’ll beat you with my cane.”

            “Ouch!” Joey exclaimed, examining his hand. “You just gave me a paper-cut!” He bolted up from the floor, avoiding Lillian’s restraining grasp, and started moving towards Chris

            Chris laughed and ran towards the end of the stage, only to collide with Lance who was climbing up.

            “Damn!” Chris shouted, tripping around Lance and falling into the orchestra pit.

            Lance and Joey approached the edge of the stage cautiously, peering into the small pit.

            “Any signs of life down there?” Joey called down. “See, I told you all that stages are dangerous places.”

            In response, a single finger appeared in everyone’s view.

            “He’s fine,” Justin proclaimed, grinning. He threw down his cards and gathered Lillian close to him. “Can someone remind me why we’re sitting here?”

            Lance and Joey pulled Chris back on the stage and they came over to sit down with the others.

            “We got an hour before the orchestra arrives,” Lance explained. “And because we’re going to be performing with them, after all, we gotta be here.”

            “This performance will be a blowout,” JC announced, smiling genuinely for the first time in what seemed like days. Music always had that remedial effect on him, no matter how bad things were going in real life.

            Chris giggled excitedly. “You just said ‘blow.’”

            “Shut up, Chris!” JC immediately demanded.

            “This will be so fun,” Lillian said. “I get to watch you guys practice with a full-piece string orchestra! Real classically-trained musicians, playing to your music. That’s when you know you’re made.”

            “Hey, I’m a musician,” Chris protested.

            “Playing a toy harmonica doesn’t count,” Lillian clarified.


            “And neither does knowing one song on a keyboard,” Justin added.

            “Hey, you guys aren’t musicians either!” Chris argued.

            “Princess, he’s making fun of me!” Justin pouted, looking at Lillian with his puppy eyes.

            “Don’t make fun of Justin,” she immediately ordered, causing Justin to smile in satisfaction. “He plays the guitar, and I’m very proud of him.”

            Justin beamed and drew her face close to kiss her. “I love you, baby.”

            “I love you, too,” she whispered.

            “Ew, that’s disgusting!” Chris whined. “Please, children, keep the molesting to a minimum.” He ran off the stage, this time managing to keep out of the pit. Joey and Lance followed him in search of more interesting things to do.

            JC looked at his two happy friends for a second, feeling hollow inside. Sure, he was happy for Justin and Lily, but he was also envious. And what man wouldn’t be? Justin was only twenty, and he had already found his soul mate. And to make things even more perfect, the woman who was meant for him was unique and beautiful.

            He sighed, then walked off the stage to give them some privacy. He thought he’d found his perfect woman, too, but now he wasn’t so sure anymore.


*                       *                       *


            Hannah walked through the rows of seats slowly, pulling her cello behind her. She didn’t know where to go, and the auditorium was deserted. Then she caught sight of a large piece of paper posted at the side of the stage.

            She approached it. Looks like the names of everyone who made the cut. She scanned down the list and found her name, then traced over to the right side of the paper. ‘Coverly, Hannah….first cello.’

            Hannah stared at it, her finger still under the words and wondering if there was a mistake. There must have been, because first cello was the best position possible for a cellist in an orchestra. And she couldn’t have impressed the judges that much. Wow. Wait till Mom hears about this.

            She stood in front of the list, still deep in her surprise and not noticing that someone else was in the auditorium with her. 

            “Hi!” a feminine voice greeted from behind her.

            She turned around abruptly, then saw the same girl she had run into at the auditions two days earlier. The girl had a friendly smile on her face.

            “I knew it was you,” she said. “Congratulations on making it. I’m Lillian Oswald, by the way.” She stuck her hand out.

            “Hannah Coverly,” she answered, shaking her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, but I think there’s been a mistake.”

            “How so?” Lillian asked curiously. She was glad that Hannah hadn’t been cut, because she had liked her the moment they ran into each other in the hall.

            Hannah pointed at the list. “I don’t think that’s right.”

            Lillian stepped closer and examined it. “No, it looks correct to me. Hey, you made first cello! Impressive.” She had a lot of respect for Hannah. Not everyone could play an instrument so well at a relatively young age.

            “Thanks,” Hannah smiled. This Lillian was so nice. She couldn’t help but feel kindness towards her.

             They stepped away from the list to allow some new arrivals to find their names.

             “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but are you in charge here? You seem pretty young.”

            Lillian laughed. “In charge? Not at all. I’m a friend of the group, I guess, if you want to call me that. Actually, I attend MIT, but sometimes I can persuade my professors to let me intern outside the school. This is one of those times.”

            Now it was Hannah’s turn to be impressed. “MIT? That’s so good. I never even went to college, really, only Juilliard.”

            Lillian rolled her eyes. “Oh yeah, like Juilliard is something to be ashamed of. Just tell Justin or JC that, and they’ll be falling at your feet. They’re really interested in playing instruments now.”

            JC. Hannah’s mind immediately caught on Josh’s new name. She had almost forgotten that he was going to be at this rehearsal.

            Lillian observed how Hannah had suddenly become pale. “Are you alright?” she asked in concern.

            Hannah nodded, trying to calm her heartbeat. She quickly scanned the people in the now bustling auditorium, looking to see if Josh was one of them. But if he was, she didn’t recognize him. Her eyes fell back on the dark-haired girl in front of her…and the young man approaching her from behind, an evil grin on his face. He was a very attractive man, but that grin was pure mischief nonetheless.

            “Um,” she began hesitantly, wondering what the man was about to do to her new friend. “There’s someone-“

            But before her warning could be voiced, Lillian was grabbed and spun around by the stranger. Hannah’s worries were appeased when Lillian kissed the man. She recognized him now, from the pictures in the CD insert. His hair had changed.

            “Justin!” Lillian protested. “I was talking with someone, you know.”

            “Sorry, babe,” Justin said, not looking at all apologetic. He gave her another peck on the cheek before turning to look at Hannah. “Don’t you want to introduce us?”

            “Of course! Hannah, this is my boyfriend Justin. Justin, this is the first cello player, Hannah,” Lillian said, smiling. “Hannah went to Juilliard.

            Hannah laughed at how Lillian stressed that fact. She had a feeling that they would get along just fine. Speaking of fine…Lillian has done very well for herself. She’s probably envied and hated by thousands of jealous fans. She looked at her sympathetically. Poor thing.

            “It’s nice to meet you, Hannah who went to Juilliard,” Justin said. “We’re going to have to talk some more, because you’re like a virtuoso or something, right?”

            Hannah blushed. “Not really. I try my best.”

            “See? She’s modest too!” Lillian exclaimed to Justin. “You can get some pointers from Hannah.”

            He groaned. “Five minutes, and you two are already ganging up on me. I’m going to find a more obedient girlfriend.” Then he dispelled his threat by leaning down and kissing the top of Lillian’s head.

            Hannah observed the two people in front of her, obviously deep in love. They didn’t look like they belonged together, but when they were it all seemed to click. It gave hope to even the greatest cynic.

            Justin pulled away from Lillian and checked his watch. “We better get going. Rehearsal will start soon. It was nice meeting you, Hannah,” he said.

            She waved at them as he dragged Lillian away to sit down. Lillian was talking to him animatedly and his head was cocked to the side to listen to her, his arm sidled around her waist as they walked.

            Like a Hallmark card or something, Hannah thought. Maybe one day she’d be able to find someone that was that perfect for her.

            She walked her way onto the stage and sat down in the first cello chair. Propping the cello between her knees, she bent her head down and carefully tuned the instrument. From the corner of her eye she saw the other four members from ‘N Sync file into the auditorium from a side door and sit down next to Justin and Lillian in the third row.

            Josh was smiling and laughing at something Justin said to him, and Hannah couldn’t help but stare at his strong profile. He looked older, much more mature. His hair was a lot more flashy than it had been before, but he managed to look good with it whereas other people would simply appear foolish.

            She felt like she was watching a movie, and not sitting twenty feet away from him. She was only an observer as he joked around with his close friends.

            A distinguished looking man stepped in her line of view and walked up to the conductor’s stand. He took a baton out and tapped it loudly, three times.

            “Welcome, everyone, and congratulations on being chosen to play. My name is Mitchell Sondheim, and I’ll be your conductor for the next few weeks. For those of you interested in scheduling, we’ll be spending two weeks rehearsing here, and then we’ll move to the Staples Center to rehearse the final two weeks. Immediately following that will be the Grammy performance. Any questions?”

            A violinist raised his hand. “Are we going to play the entire Grammy show, or only the performance with ‘N Sync?”

            Sondheim nodded. “Good question. We are apart from the official Grammy orchestra, and will only perform with the group. The reason for this is because we want to construct an image for the performance, and also the group is considering recording in the studio with this orchestra. This way is just easier for everyone.”

            Hannah looked around at the other musicians and noticed that they were all younger than the stuffed-suits that could be found in the Grammy orchestra. I guess that’s what he meant when he said ‘constructing an image.’

            “Everyone here comes from a notable and hard-working musical past, so I expect no problems while we’re together,” Sondheim continued.

            In the audience, Joey was wrestling with Chris. “Give my Gameboy Advanced back, you punk!” he whispered furiously.

            “No, it’s my turn to play,” Chris shot back. He leaned away from Joey’s swinging hands, tapping frantically on the Gameboy’s buttons.

            “Get away from me, man,” Lance protested, pushing Chris’ head away from his face. “I’m trying to read these papers.” He shoved him to back in Joey’s direction.

            JC leaned down the row and glared at them. “Quiet down over there, the conductor’s talking.”

            Joey took advantage of the interruption and grabbed his Gameboy back. He stuck his tongue out at Chris and began playing gleefully, ignoring Chris trying to peer into the screen.

            JC shook his head in exasperation and turned back to Lillian. “So what were you saying again?”

            “I met this really nice person,” Lillian repeated. “She went to Juilliard and everything!”

            Justin laughed softly at hearing his girlfriend brag about her new friend. It was like she was three-years-old and had just received a brand new toy for Christmas. He tightened his arm around her.

            “You’re adorable, you know that?” he whispered in her ear.

            “What?” she asked, turning to him distractedly. “That’s nice.”

            Justin caught JC’s amused glance over her head and they both smiled.

            “Here, let me show you where she is,” Lillian said, talking to JC again.

            He obediently set his eyes on the stage, waiting for her to point the girl out.

            “On the left, next to-“ Lillian began, only to be cut off by the ringing of JC’s cell phone.

            He pulled it out of his pocket and glanced at the number. Bobbie again. “I’m sorry, you’ll have to show me later,” he said, standing up. “I gotta take this call.”

            “Is it Bobbie?” Lillian asked, noticing how his face had immediately become strained.

            JC nodded.

            She sighed and patted his hand comfortingly. “Don’t worry about it.”

            He nodded again and walked out of the auditorium, talking quietly on his cell.

            Lillian looked at his empty seat and then stared into Justin’s eyes. “I haven’t even met her yet, and I already don’t like her. That’s pretty bad, isn’t it?”

            Justin shrugged. “She’s okay. I guess they’re just having some rough times.”

            “I hate rough times. Poor JC.”

            Justin agreed with her. He had been in the same situation before, and he knew it was not fun at all.

            “JC’s tough,” he assured Lillian. “He’ll be fine.”


*                       *                       *


            Hannah looked up from her music and glanced in Josh’s direction, but he wasn’t in his seat anymore. She saw his back retreating up the aisle, his cell phone once again attached to his ear.

            She hoped he was okay. Maybe he was talking to the same person from the other night. Maybe it’s his girlfriend. I hope it’s not his girlfriend.  

            Sondheim glanced at her and she concentrated on playing, trying to push the thoughts out of her head. Josh, when will you see me?


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